Koori Court: 15 years young: A review of intended and unintended consequences

Ms Jelena Popovic1

1Magistrates Court Of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia


Koori Court didn’t focus on the problem, it focussed on the way forward. And it showed me the importance of connection and getting connected. AR, October 2016.

Since its commencement in Shepparton in 2002, Koori Court now sits in three County Courts, 10 Magistrates’ Courts and 13 Children’s Court locations. It is no longer a boutique pilot, but part of the very fabric of the Victoria court system. Koori Court is the embodiment of cultural safety in the alienating world of the justice system, and strives to address the over-representation of Aboriginal persons in prisons and courts.

The cornerstone of the Koori Court is its Elders and Respected Persons (ERP). The paper will examine the renewed respect toward Elders, and the evolution of the role of Elders and Respected Persons, with reference to the professionalisation of the ERPs through remuneration and continuing professional education.

This paper will review the Koori Court model in comparison with other Indigenous courts and comment on whether it has met its intended aims.   It will look at the continuing evolution of the court and the changes to the model, such as increasing efforts to promote culture, closer affiliation with the Sheriff’s Office to address outstanding fines, the addition of criminal justice diversion and the inclusion of family violence breaches. It will discuss what its presence has meant to the Koori community, the Victorian community, the workforce of the courts, the justice system, the police and the judicial officers who preside over it.

The paper will also look at the challenges, and the strategies to address them, and will conclude with some thoughts about how the Koori Court could continue to evolve over the next 15 years.


Jelena is a Victorian Deputy Chief Magistrate of 27 years standing who has a keen interest in solution focussed judging and is the Supervising Magistrate of the Koori Courts.

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